Winter Meetings activity sets up Pirates' to-do list

December 8th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Well, that was an action-packed last couple of days, now wasn’t it?

With Bryan Reynolds requesting a trade prior to the Winter Meetings, the Pirates’ brass arrived in San Diego as one of the talks of the town. Reynolds might not have been moved over the last couple of days, but between a pair of free-agent signings, the Rule 5 Draft and the winning of the inaugural Draft Lottery, the festivities will end with the Pirates having made a fair amount of headlines.

"We feel good about the progress," general manager Ben Cherington said. "Nothing’s changed as far as things we still want to do and still are working on. Got a little more information on all of that this week. Not anticipating anything more happens tonight or anything necessarily, but we’ll get out of here tomorrow and keep working on it."

1) Catcher: The Winter Meetings came and went, and Endy Rodriguez, the Pirates’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, remains the only catcher on the 40-man roster. With Rodriguez and Henry Davis -- Pittsburgh’s No. 1 prospect -- slated to begin next season in the Minors, per manager Derek Shelton, the Pirates must figure out which two catchers will suit up Opening Day.

2) Outfielder: Regardless of whether a Reynolds trade happens, it wouldn’t hurt for the Pirates to acquire an outfielder. Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster is loaded with young left-handed-hitting outfielders -- Jack Suwinski, Cal Mitchell, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Travis Swaggerty, Tucupita Marcano -- all of whom are still finding their footing at the Major League level.

3) Starting pitcher: The Pirates added to their pitch mix by signing relievers and (per sources), but they stand to benefit by adding a rotation piece or two. Pittsburgh has an intriguing group of young starters, but Cherington said the team would like to deepen the rotation and create competition if opportunities arise.

The Rule 5 Draft was an appropriate ending to an eventful few days in San Diego.

In the Major League portion, the Pirates added another southpaw to the mix by taking Jose Hernandez from the Dodgers with the third pick in the Rule 5 Draft, then immediately lost catcher/outfielder to the Reds with the following selection. Sabol was traded from Cincinnati to the Giants shortly after.

Sabol was one of several notable prospects who went unprotected ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. His versatility could have been an asset for the Pirates, who need catching and outfield depth.

Hernandez, who will turn 25 on Dec. 31, had a 3.32 ERA with 69 strikeouts against 25 walks in 59 2/3 innings at High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa last season. With the signing of García -- the deal is pending a physical -- the Pirates will have at least two left-handed relievers on the Opening Day roster.

The Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft was equally eventful. The Pirates selected right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang from the Giants and outfielder Josh Palacios from the Nationals, but Pittsburgh lost 11 players to various organizations, including Joelvis Del Rosario to Oakland with the first pick.

The Reynolds situation has generated a ton of uncertainty, but regardless of how that shakes out, the Pirates have been committed to supplementing their budding core.

In addition to signing García and Velasquez, the Pirates addressed first base by acquiring from the Rays and signing to a one-year, $6.75 million deal. The club also brought in an intriguing relief option by trading infielder Kevin Newman to the Reds for right-hander , clearing the way for Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro and others up the middle.

Pittsburgh has been active this offseason, and even with the Winter Meetings in the rear-view mirror, the team could very well keep adding to the mix.

“We felt like coming out of this season, as difficult as it was, we now have a group of young players that have matriculated on to the Major League team, or started to, or are close to doing that, as we look into next year,” Cherington said. “Relative to two years ago, the total number of players who are either touching our Major League roster or are getting close, we just see as much larger. We just feel like this is the time to start to complement that group.”